As a channel marketer, you’re likely very familiar with your top channel partners. They are the ones who engage with you often and send you referrals regularly. If your program has a number of active, vocal partners it’s possible they take up all of your time, causing you to ignore a larger more quiet (and sometimes under-performing) segment of your partner channel – the long tail partner.

The long tail partner, sometimes called a low-touch, high-potential partner or self-service partner, is a partner who rarely engages with you but still sends a few lucrative deals within any given year. While many companies view these partners as disengaged or disinterested, and therefore not worth their time, others are seeing the immense value in these partners. In fact, according to Jay McBain, Forresters’ principal analyst, companies are starting to embrace these partners and actively employ referral strategies to turn these partners into a reliable source of growth.

If companies could figure out a way to manage [these] partners even more efficiently – don’t assign a channel account manager, limit access to a rich set of expensive resources, and make all support flexible, automated, and self-service — they could rely on that annual revenue at high profits with no touching and little cost,” McBain said in an interview with Channel Marketer Report.

Companies don’t have to have a love/hate relationship with their long tail partners. By turning these partners into referral (transactional) partners, you can maximize their output while minimizing the time and cost spent trying to engage this segment of your partner channel.

Reseller vs. Referral

Companies with well developed partner programs know that reseller partners require a high investment with an uncertain return. Despite the high investment, reseller partner programs continue to dominate the industry. However, new referral marketing technology (aimed at automating the referral process) is starting to shift how companies think about their resellers vs. referrals. In fact, many companies are now finding that partnerships based on referrals are showing incredible success and challenging the status quo reseller partner programs.

Here are just a few of the benefits an automated referral partner program can bring to your company, your partners and your sales team:

  1. Quality leads: Did you know that 31 percent of referral leads from partners made a purchase? This number jumped to 41 percent when a sales team understands and participates in the referral process.
  2. Shorter sales cycles: Referral deals tend to move faster through the pipeline because they are warm, high-quality leads. In addition, your sales team will have access to the partner who made the referral and that partner can help to prequalify the lead or move the deal forward.
  3. Cost savings: Automation often results in significant cost savings. In a referral partner model, you can scale the large number of referral partners without having to add additional resources to manage, nurture and market the partner channel.
  4. Happy customers: Partners can easily meet customers’ needs with your company’s products and offerings. And because referral leads are the highest quality, partners know they will receive the attention and care they deserve throughout the buying process.
  5. Easy partner management: With an automated referral partner program, sales won’t need to manually track which partner referred whom, and what payment goes where. All of this is automated through the system so the sales team can focus on selling.

You can read more about the benefits here.

Why Automated Referral Programs Are A Perfect Fit

Investing in referral automation software, the kind offered by companies like Amplifinity, can be a great way for companies to provide these transactional referral partners an easy, hands-off way to submit deals. By providing a program that is flexible and automated, you can manage a large number of these partners for little cost with a high return.

For Jamie Mendez, director of channel marketing at IBM, making it easy for transactional referral partners to engage was vital to their program, as these partners are usually digitally-savvy. “Their expectation is they’re going to engage with you digitally,” she said in the same interview with Channel Market Report. “If you’re not up to par digitally, you’re not someone they want to work with anyway.”

That’s why it’s key, when researching referral automation software, to find a solution that fits all of your program’s needs without completely changing your existing workflow. By keeping the mechanics of your program the same, and simply automating the process, you can better automate the experience for these partners and see a better return on the deals they submit, while keeping your top channel partners engaged and happy.

If you want to learn more about referral marketing best practices, check out Amplifinity’s resource library.